Veronic breeds Swedish Finewool and is the chairman of the Swedish Working Kelpie Club
Even though I always have been very dedicated to handling my sheep in a low stress way, the first Fairdinkum clinic with David Hart in Sweden 2015 completely changed my mindset. Educating my yearlings and gaining more team spirit with my dogs made a huge improvement in the daily work and my stock were even calmer and more easy to handle. The 2017 Fairdinkum clinic was surprisingly as revolutionary to my mindset as I was now ready to understand and carry out the techniques to move stock in a safe but effective way. Since then both paddock and yard work have been a pure joy at the farm! I am very much looking forward to the next of David Hart’s schools.
Jan runs a 100-ewe Merino stud and breeds working Kelpies (Karmala Kelpie Stud) and has used a number of David Hart’s dogs as sires.
I was lucky to attend one of David's earlier clinics that he held on his property.
I would like to encourage anyone keen on working stock with dogs to attend one of his excellent schools.
David has a great knack of imparting a lot of good knowledge in a painless and entertaining manner. These days are great fun and great value.
I can only imagine that his latest ones are even better value, as David is a very intelligent bloke with an open mind, always learning and improving his skills.
Riikka Ruunaniemi, Finland
David’s clinics have opened my eyes to cattle and their behaviour. At first, it felt complicated and difficult to understand, but after really listening and changing my attitude it was all revealed to me.
Guyra NSW Australia
Deb runs a 750 sheep Merino stud, 90 steers and breeds and trains Kelpies for sale (Clever Kelpies) and has used some of David’s dogs for breeding.
From David’s tuition I have completely changed how I work my sheep, cattle and dogs. As a beginner with cattle I now confidently and calmly educate my bought-in stock so they choose to do what I request. As a veteran sheep producer I’ve reviewed and greatly improved how I move sheep in the paddock and yards. And I can now train dogs to be part of an effective livestock-dog-handler team. However, don’t stop at one school, as you are mentally not ready for it all the first time.
I didn’t know want to expect when I agreed to attend David’s school. In fact, I thought it was going to be one of those courses where you play around with your dog and listen to some idiot preach to us all things dog related and how well he runs his dogs etc. But I was so wrong, so very wrong in fact. Never judge a book by its cover, well never judge a school by a different one you’ve attended before. For those who think they know basic sheep and dog handling, you have no idea until you have had a David Hart experience.
Stephen and Penny
"I really didn't know what to expect when I agreed to host one of David's courses - but I wish I'd done it years ago! I'm glad my 14 year old son had the experience. It has transformed the way we work with sheep - I think differently! It ought to be obligatory! Looking forward to the next one!"
Erika & Catrinus Homan,
We didn’t really know what to expect when we got David to Europe in 2013 for the first time. It really opened our eyes to handling our flocks and our packs of dogs better. A very practical clinic that really changes your mindset, as it is not about your dog, but about you handling your sheep better, more Low Stress. This helps you to become a better stock handler and your dogs (if they are good dogs with the correct breeding) are quite relieved that you finally understand how to set-up a better system. We have also experienced constant back-up and support after the 3-day school. David is always ready to comment and help you enter the next level. David’s honest, direct (if it's crap, he’ll tell you!), but also respectful and humorous manner of teaching makes it a fun way to learn. Making it a lasting experience with even longer lasting echoes..."Be there! What’s going on there? Eyes are a camera... look at your stock!" We are very grateful to have Tracker Storm, a Kelpie bred and trained by David, in our team, he is a very good team player and breeds on very well to our females.
Marissa was the host of the Wyoming, USA school at Lonetree Ranch.
I met David Hart by luck. I become more aware everyday to the extent of how lucky we were to start with his principles. His influence over our operations and our mindset have helped us develop into a profitable ranch and into people who enjoy working livestock. With his help we are empowered to take responsibility for the quality of life we provide for our animals, the experiences we put them through and own mindset as we execute our work. David has distilled and simplified the theory behind animal behaviour so that we are able to understand how to move an animal with their brain.
Unlike other clinics and experts, he spends little time on specific techniques but more time outlining a few fundamentals which are the base for all practical work giving us the freedom to apply proper livestock handling in the infinite situations we will encounter. His dogs are an extension of his mastery of livestock handling. After witnessing the unity between the stock, David and his dog, what we have is a clear example of how it should be.
Thank you for positively encouraging us to learn, grow and let go of excuses to do what we know is best for our livestock and this industry.
As an intern at TomKat Ranch, I get to attend a lot of events and trainings on the ranch. When I heard that the ranch was hosting a clinic on stock dogs, I imagined that I would be learning how to train a dog to work with livestock, however, as it turned out, the clinic went much deeper and was really about using dogs to train me to read my livestock better.
The stock dog clinic was put on by David Hart, an Australian rancher and dog trainer who travels around the world speaking and teaching. His philosophy centers around cultivating personal and environmental awareness to create situations instead of simply reacting to them.
During the 3-day clinic, David pointed out and demonstrated with numerous exercises, how important it is to be open and aware while you are working with livestock because success depends on your ability to accurately read them and the situation. I learned that countless frustrations are needlessly created by getting stuck in my head and focusing on what I think “should” happen instead of what is happening.
Over the last five years, I have worked for different cattle operations throughout California and seen a lot of different ways to work with livestock. However, David’s method felt revolutionary because it focused more on building perspective than forcing speed. Seeing David calmly, quietly, and quickly move the cattle exactly where he wanted them was inspiring. I learned that stressed livestock are not just a frustrating obstacle to overcome, but a sign that I’m doing something wrong or not seeing something in the environment that is making my approach unsuccessful.
Coming away from this clinic, I have learned that handling my livestock in a low-stress manner is not only more efficient, but also a lot more fun. It is really engaging to approach each interaction with these animals as a communication instead of a chore and handling cattle with David’s method was much easier than I’ve ever experienced. Not having cows jump fences or charge at me lowered both mine and the animals’ stress!
Tamara G Kasser, USA
Tamara hosted the 2018 Tennessee School at Belle Meadow Farm Wartrace.
Thank you to David Hart and his wife Suz for making the trip to the US and including us in middle Tennessee as a stop on your US Livestock Handling School tour. We may have had the smallest handler attendance at the Tennessee school, but we made up for it with 19 working dogs. The 9 handlers from TN, AL & VA were a mix of dog trainers, dog triallers, farmers with dogs and farm managers without dogs. The hands on experience educating stock as well as the classroom lecture and discussion were first rate.
Straight away I couldn’t stop talking about this experience with those that couldn’t attend as well as those that come to work their dogs on stock with me. Then I was approached via email a week after the workshop by a person saying they heard from a participant that the David Hart Livestock Handling school had nothing to do with trialing. Well my first response in reply could have been, yes you are correct (as the program clearly stated Livestock Handling not Dog Trial Training) but instead I took a breath and my answer was “you couldn’t be more wrong”.
Yes the David Hart Livestock School had everything to do with trialing. Trialing is about partnering with your stock dog to efficiently move stock around a specified timed course.
David emphasised that the stock held the greatest value in a livestock operation. Often trialers focus on the importance of the dog and the score he will earn for the handler, yet without the stock there would be no stock trials, and without educated stock there are poorly run trials that some handlers then want to put all the blame on the stock for reacting poorly (as the dog never seems to be at fault). As trial hosts and livestock providers (whether for trials and or stock heading to the sale barn) we might take a more humane approach to educating the stock for these situations. If trialers truly considered the high value of stock their approach to trialing might be different, including how they manage their dog around stock. If trialers could appreciate the importance of creating a bond with the livestock their outcome working stock might be a more positive one. Often I have cautioned trialers against allowing their dog to run into a pen and bite stock - what an example of getting off on the wrong foot - the dog has just communicated to the stock “ I don’t trust myself, I don’t trust you and now that I’ve punished you for standing in this pen, you don’t trust me”. How does one think the rest of the course will flow now that all are of a negative mind set? And the stock will not trust the handler either as they can see the handler has allowed the dog to approach stock in this aggressive manner. Where’s the humane concern for the livestock?
What a wonderful opportunity the David Hart School afforded each handler and their dogs ... the opportunity to let their dogs work, come into their own, figure things out without commanding them to do this or that, to develop a working relationship/partnership with their dogs, allowing handler and dogs to better learn to read stock and build trust with the livestock and their dogs.
Again the individual responded saying that the school must have been for farmers as the audience was not trialers. Well obviously communication about the value and concern for the livestock did not seem as high a value to that person as the importance of training their dog. So my next reply was that the David Hart Livestock Handling School was a lot like the difference in going to college and going to trade school. I think through the lecture/discussion and hands on stock education the school afforded me the opportunity to go to college. College teaches us to think, to learn how to search for answers, to figure things out for ourselves while trade school teaches you the “how to”. How to fix this thing by reading this manual. So for me, the David Hart Livestock Handling School allowed me the opportunity to think outside the box. There was no prescription to do this or that with the dog.
Yes, there are books on training your dog to do an outrun, on how to trial sheep, etc etc. For me the opportunity to think things through, to figure things out with my dogs and not for my dogs was such a great learning experience. Yes, in the past I’d been told, “do chores with my dogs”, “don’t over command my dogs”etc etc but in the next breath I was told do this, don’t do this. The David Hart Livestock Handling School was an awesome opportunity to be free to make mistakes in a controlled and safe setting keeping at the forefront that the livestock is most highly valued.
Summary ... what I learned (and some re-learning):
- The stock are number one, of most value. Build a bond of trust with your livestock.
- Think outside the box. One way does not work for every handler, every dog, every situation. So be flexible. Allow time to get a job done. Rushing makes for twice the work.
- Let your dogs work and work often and work a lot. It keeps them out of trouble and hones their skills. Observe, learn from your dogs, they are amazing teachers.
- Let your dogs work together, figure things out together, focus on their strengths, create opportunities for them each to succeed and improve where they are weak.
- It’s ok to make mistakes, we learn from our mistakes. Keep account of what was good in any work situation, and what you’d do different/better next time.
- You are the leader of your dogs, step up and lead and they are your partners. Build trust with your dogs.
- Work hard and enjoy some downtime, playtime too with your dogs.
A note in closing, the conversation continued and the person said they wanted spoon feeding, a how to manual. That’s ok I said. We all learn differently but for me:
- I’m going to improve the livestock handling program on our farm (it’s good as per the rave reviews we get about how calm our cattle arrive at the sale barns and their calm reaction at our stock trials, but we can do even better by our livestock—improving on our stock education program).
- I’m freeing my dogs up to work, allowing us both to learn from our mistakes, trusting them more, and continuing my own education through exchange with others.
Thanks again to David and Suz Hart for your openness, patience, encouragement and for sharing your command of this humane livestock education program.